Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trip to San Sal...

We left Tuesday morning to head to San Salvador for the purpose of renewing our visas. To pay someone to drive a family of 4 to San Salvador starts at $50 so we opted for public transportation this time. There is an express bus that runs from La Palma to San Sal about 7 a.m. It makes a few stops to let off people but no others get on the bus. Because of this, it costs $3.50 each--more than twice the cost of a regular bus. The buses are of a better quality and considered to be much safer. We decided to try this, since it would only cost our family $14 for the trip. I'd communicated with Carmen, who lives in San Salvador and had opened her home for our family to stay there, and she'd arranged to have a taxi driver friend of hers, Pedro, meet us at the bus terminal. We got on the bus and sat as close to the front as we could. The ride down the mountain is quite curvy and can cause carsickness in anyone prone to it. Nathan, Ruth, and I all took motion sickness pills and wore some electronic bracelets I have that help with motion sickness. With these bracelets, I have successfully ridden loop-the-loop roller coasters and even the Tony Hawk ride at Six Flags without getting sick. However, I think our driver may have thought he was in a race as he headed down the mountain at breakneck speed. Nathan and I both wound up throwing up before the road straightened out. The man on the bus in charge of taking the money walked up and down the aisle passing out plastic bags to those who needed them--a sign we were not alone. Luckily, I was already prepared with both plastic bags and a wet washcloth for such an event.
We got off the bus at the San Salvador bus terminal and Carmen and Pedro met us there about 5 minutes later and we headed to the Immigration Department. We had to get passport-sized photos made to accompany our applications, but I knew that there were several booths across the street that specialized in this so we waited to do those till we arrived. The booth we used for this had a pet parrot there that loved to say, "Hola!" over and over and that supposedly liked to sing. The girl working there would sing La Cucaracha to the bird, but the only thing the bird would sing back was, "La Cuca..." and then cut off. It was great entertainment while waiting for our pictures to be ready.
As we arrived at Immigration, we were able to meet with Jessica, who I had met with before and was very helpful. I finished filling out our papers and paid the necessary fees and we were fingerprinted and told to return on Thursday. Jessica said her boss was not in the office through Wednesday of the week but would be on Thursday and has to okay all renewals. She kept our passports--standard practice while waiting for renewals--and gave us temporary papers stating that we are applying for updated visas and we headed on our way.
Because I knew there would likely be a 2 day wait we'd planned to stay with Carmen for two nights and do a bit of sightseeing while in San Salvador. It was actually cheaper than making two trips to San Salvador and gave our family a bit of time away from the 24-hour demands that we are often faced with when in La Palma.

We were able to visit the San Salvador Zoo, the National Museum (anthropology museum), eat at Burger King and Pizza Hut, and enjoy a bit of shopping while there. Nathan enjoyed playing with Carmen's neighbor boy--they kicked a soccer ball in the street for hours. And we just enjoyed time at Carmen's relaxing. Carmen is well-traveled and it was great to visit with her. Her son Napo was able to come and visit for a while, as well. He has helped with the La Palma work and is also-well traveled and was able to share insight and advice with us. Carmen made us a delicious meal of chicken and potatoes on Tuesday night and was very helpful on our entire visit. Pedro was very helpful and took us wherever we needed to go in the city. The traffic in San Sal always amazes me. The roads are not marked as well as we are used to and it seems as though one can drive forever and still have a huge expanse of city in front of you.
When we go to San Salvador, there are things we stock up on because they aren't available here. Among them are: ground beef (available here but is not very good quality--stays red even after cooking it), cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, Latin cream (similar to sour cream but much better!), American pancake syrup, peanut butter, and various spices/seasonings. This trip I also was able to find Dawn dish detergent which was thrilling to me. The dish soaps here have not done as good a job as I am used to in removing grease and to have the quality and familiar smell of Dawn back in my kitchen makes me very happy.
I'd spoken with Joel, a friend from San Sal who has helped with the La Palma work on countless occasions, and we said he could drive us back to La Palma on Thursday. I called Jessica at Immigration about 9 a.m. and she said the visas weren't ready yet but to call later. We met up with Joel that morning and made a quick trip to the beach at La Libertad.
We got to walk out on a pier, through a fish market, and watch how the fishing boats are let down into the water by a motorized crane. In the fish market, we saw seafood of all sorts, and Nathan got to pick up a small hammerhead shark. We spent some time walking on the shore and enjoying the beauty of the area and then went to a seaside restaurant to eat at a table overlooking the ocean. During lunch I called Jessica again to see about our visas. She was not available but her co-worker told me to come back tomorrow morning and that they'd be available then. I didn't like that option so we decided to be there around 2:30 (their office closes at 3:30) in person to inquire if they were ready, thinking it will be much harder to tell me in person to come back tomorrow. And I was completely ready to pull out all the stops and beg for them to process them that day so that we didn't have to find somewhere to spend the night. In the end, when we arrived, Jessica smiled and said that our visas were ready and to have a seat and she'd be with us shortly. A half hour later, we had visas in hand and headed out the door.
We headed to HiperPaiz (owned by WalMart) and got our needed groceries and headed back to La Palma. Joel spent the night with us and Nathan enjoyed having someone new to play video games with. :) He had to return Friday evening to San Sal to attend a family event.
Thank you for your prayers for our visa process and for our safe travels. Our trip to San Sal was a success--we obtained our visas, relaxed a bit, and returned home safely. I'd like to say that next week will be a 'normal' week but we're not really sure what 'normal' is, since we never entirely know what each day has in store. But it is a week in which we will resume a more normal schedule and plan to be in La Palma all week. It's sure to be a great week. :)


Daena said...

Lori, I am Taylor Shelton's mom. I read your blog nearly everyday and you guys are always in my prayers. Taylor hopes to head back in the spring, he can't wait! Just wanted to say hi! and I love the new blog look! Super Cute!!

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